Spirit - Under construction

I am not very religious but I have had contact with religion. And I surely am not afraid to tackle the issue of religion. I was born in Greece and therefore am considered an Orthodox Christian. I have had contact with muslims, pagans and most other Christian denominations. I have no idea about "eastern" religions at all. This is my flame-bait and my soapbox on religion. By no means do I claim to know the full truth nor do I expect you to believe what I say here as fact.

[need for religion]

[tech1] We live in an age of discovery and innovation. That is all well and good but I do not think that we should limit our search to technological progress. There is a serious imbalance between time spent on theory and on practice. We are in the driving seat of a crazy, out-of-control car called 'technology'. Take burning issues that should be on all our minds constantly. Nanotechnology is bringing technology into the very core of the human being and has applications we can't even imagine yet. Genetics has reached a point where after having mapped the human genome we are now capable of altering gene sequences to accentuate or completely alter characteristics of living beings. Cloning. Sex selection before conception. Experimentation on life itself. How far are they to be allowed and what are the real advantages of doing all these things? Is there a real debate? Yes. Are we all involved? Sadly no. Another example of a runaway technology: the internet and global information exchange is taking over our lives. Big brother is here and is watching you. Politics are decaying. Democracy is the best we have managed to come up with and it's by far not the perfect system the ancient Greeks had in mind. Check out Postmodernism.

[tech2] Conversely, what about advances in important theoretical fields? Philosophy for example. Never mind those who actually study it, to me it seems like the world is rushing on as if we know everything, as if all that's really important has been said and thought out. Not to mention we do not even bother teaching to children what we already know well enough. How many wars could have been averted and how many human (and not) beings would have been better off today if we all stopped to take stock of where we are, what we are doing to ourselves and our world? Sociology, anthropology, ethics. As a technologist myself I find it abhorrent that throughout my academic years all I got on ethics was 2 hours or tutoring on "hacking". How many scientists really draw their ethical frameworks on solid philosophical, sociological and anthropological bases? I find that most I have met rely mostly on religion.

[tech2] It is possible we have actually lost track of what is actually 'real' and what is not. I may even be tempted to recall the song 'Futureal' by Iron Maiden. Here are the lyrics, just to break the monotony.

I'm running out of my time, I'm running out of breath
And now it's getting so I can't sleep at night
In the day, feel like death

I'm getting in far too deep
I feel them closing in
I've got to say that I'm scared
I know they'll win
Even so, I'm prepared

Do you believe what you hear, can you believe what you see?
Do you believe what you feel, can you believe?

What is real? Futureal
What is real?

Whenever anyone seems to treat me like a freak
It makes me see I'm the only one who feels
That I know what is real

Sometimes it feels like a game of deadly hide and seek
And when you're reading this then I will be gone
Maybe then, you will see

Do you believe what you hear, can you believe what you see?
Do you believe what you feel, can you believe?

What is real? Futureal
What is real? Futureal
So? What is real? Can you tell me or can I tell you? Is there objective truth? This is the first major mystery we must tackle when thinking of religion

[mystery1] Which brings me to an issue that has been bugging me for some time now. Modern man cannot stand mysteries. The notion of "mystery" as defined both in religious terms and our daily language. Man is by nature a curious being. If we weren't, we wouldn't have improved our lives at all since we lived in caves. We are hardwired to feel we have accomplished something when we learn something new. Gaps in understanding frustrate us as a race. In the greek term 'anthropos', from which anything to do with humans is derived (anthropology, anthropomorphic, etc) is composed of two words 'ano' (high,above) and 'throsko' (gaze). We are, by our own definition, the race that always looks for something better and higher.

[mystery2] What happens when we try to tackle the basic questions, those questions common to everyone? We fail miserably. Why do we exist? What is our purpose? Do we even have one? What is the nature of life? What are we made of? Is there more to us than just flesh and bones? How do we explain the 'paranormal'? Ignoring that what we call 'magic' and 'paranormal' is simply something we do not understand, how do we know that we have the capacity to understand everything? Maybe existence is beyond our reach. If that is not the case, what will happen if we do survive long enough to find out the secrets above? Will we be dissappointed like in Douglas Adams' "Hitchhiker's guide to the galaxy" where the answer to the question about "life, the universe and everything" turned out to be.... 42.

At this point we hit the first juncture where people get off the doubt train so to speak. Some claim there is no objective truth, such as most pagans. This means that reality is simply shaped by our perception of it and there is no reall good or ill as long as nobody else is harmed. There are of course others who waive even that last limitation. Those people clearly do not worry about religion overmuch. This is where all the philosophical stuff I don't know about comes in, go to wikipedia or something and look up nihilism and fatalism.

[atheism]Then we get those who clearly believe that there are no gods, the atheists. Which of course get all confused with the nontheists who basically are diet-atheists cause they only lack belief in gods. Okay, confused yet? Then we have agnostics, who are possibly under the nontheist banner but maybe not. And let us not forget the skeptics, who basically think too much for their own good (skepsis = thought in ancient greek). I for one believe the divine exists but I'm skeptical as to its form.

[shopping] And this is where those still on the doubt wagon begin shopping for a religion. This is such a common reaction in our age. We have a need, surely there must be someone who can fulfill it. So we go the mall. And there is so much to choose from. Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity, Paganism, Atheism (always a popular choice) and the list goes on and on forever. And I did that for a while but it didn't satisfy me. I must say, of all the denominations, the Christians are the most repulsed by the shop-for-a-religion attitude. No patience at all. Period. In way, they were right. I think trying to find a religion that suits you is identical to creating a character in a multiplayer online game. You choose your race (religion) to match what you enjoy playing, then you customize the character (pick a denomination) and finally you give it a name and being playing. Somehow I find that an immature approach to the divine. If you're still aboard, you have a need for something more than the mundane so it's basically disrespecting yourself.

[seeking] So what is the right attitude to have? I think that since we are looking for something that we do not directly understand we should investigate for ourselves. Surely religions have things to teach us but we should be careful in accepting their various truisms. I for one ended up rejecting every single one because I was afraid of accepting the ideas of punishment and the restrictions. This is where a lot of people jump off again, going for beliefs that do not involve much commitment, like New Age religions, paganism and atheism. Surely, all involve a measure of personal responsibility but surely not in the form of divine punishment. And now we're left with the have-deities and optionally also we-have-the-truth religions.

[confusedtraditions] And this is where we get stuck. You read the holy texts of islam and you say "hmm... not bad, although some parts about cutting off people's heads when they won't convert kinda sucks". Then you read the Christian holy texts and you think "hmm... not bad, if you ignore the first book, which mainly described a god that really had changed his mind about having created man in the first place, burning cities left and right and drowning the whole race for kicks. Then you read the second book and you get all confused because it was written 2000+ years ago (depends on your calendar actually) and turns out it doesn't quite fit in 100% with modern life. And you read and you read and finally a picture begins to emerge.

[principles] There are very few things in each religion that define its core. And many of them have a common core. Love is a common theme. Respect of family is another. Not murdering is also very popular. So if you break it down, you need to get to those core beliefs.

[choosing] The right way to choose one depends on your personality, experience and your soul (if you believe in one). Most people, if we want to be practical, have grown up in a religion or have converted through personal experience. Clearly, most of those who consider themselves religious fall into the former category. I find that the only way to approach religion is through personal experience. But the only way to really live a religion is to effectively convert to it. Faith is the issue.

[faith]

Orthodox Christianity

[intro]

Some relevant links:

Paganism

[intro]

Some relevant links:

Muslims

[intro]

[violence in the quoran + occupation of greece]

[terrorism + the muslim world]

Some relevant links: